The Universe was smiling upon me when Sheet Pan Suppers arrived in my PO box a few days ago.
Picky kids, my Facebook wail, and angels disguised as mail carriers
It was a gloomy, damp weekend, and I was feeling especially beaten down by my kids’ picky eating habits. During my casual Sunday Facebooking, I noticed an article my friend Roxanna Sarmiento shared about how we’ve created a generation of finicky kids. I clicked through, not anticipating it would hit me right where I was most vulnerable.
Suddenly years of pent-up frustration came pouring out all over Roxanna’s comment section:
(Will I never learn to avoid reading stuff that leaves me feeling insecure? I don’t blame the article’s author — it’s a fine piece of writing — and for the most part I’m pretty confident about my parenting choices. But my kids’ picky eating is my Achilles heel. I should have seen it coming.)
Roxanna and friends responded to my Facebook wail with kindness and comfort — I tell you, Internet friendship feels like magic, sometimes. But that afternoon, I needed more TLC. Rael suggested I take myself to Powell’s Books for Home and Garden to pick up a new cookbook. He knows this never fails to cheer me.
(Yes, Powell’s has an entire store devoted to home and garden books. Don’t hate me because I live in Portland.)
At the last minute I decided to swing by my PO box on the way to Powell’s. And there, waiting for me, was Sheet Pan Suppers. I high-fived the guy at Postal Annex. A ray of sun may have fallen on the book while angels broke into song.
I had forgotten that a few weeks earlier I’d requested a review copy. I don’t request books often. But I know and love Workman Publishing (they’re publishing my Parent Hacks book). Also, a cookbook that promises “simple, surprising, hands-off meals” falls squarely in Parent Hacks territory, and I wanted to see if it lived up to its claim.
Sheet Pan Suppers arrived at the moment I was ready to tell a new story about family meals.
- I was ready to leave the “my kids are picky” whining and the “what did I do wrong” insecurity behind.
- I was (mostly) ready to accept my kids’ tastes and stop judging them.
- I was ready to be OK with serving meals not everyone likes, or is even willing to eat.
- I was ready to offer and eat meals with a spirit of generosity and enthusiasm instead of anxiety (“will they eat this?”) or dread (“they’ll never eat this”).
- I was ready to relax about the whole situation.
- I was ready to embrace cooking again.
It felt like a signal to start fresh.
I’m already an oven-roasting maniac, so it wouldn’t be hard to dive into the recipes. I already own a heavy-duty half-sheet pan and baking parchment.
I did, however, stop by the kitchen supply store on my way home. (It’s across the street from the PO box place. Once again, UNIVERSE SPEAKING.)
Several of the recipes call for a wire cooling rack, and since I saved at least $20 by NOT buying a book at Powell’s, the rack was essentially free. What?
(Here’s the stuff I use. Affiliate links point to Amazon.)
I also stopped at the grocery store to buy the ingredients for my first sheet pan supper.
I returned home with my new book and purchase and marched straight to the kitchen. I was practically bubbling over with excitement to start dinner.
The idea behind Sheet Pan Suppers is that you cook the entire meal in a single pan in the oven. It’s a more elegant, less soupy one-pot meal.
I made Chicken Jerome: a combo of artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, scallions, boneless chicken, seasoned and baked in a light wine/lemon/cream sauce. It looked beautiful in the pan, and even more beautiful after its sojourn in the hot oven: steaming, crisp and colorful. I did a little dance as I served it (with rice) to my husband and skeptical-but-willing children.
It was delicious. Rael loved it. My kids didn’t. One ate it (after surgically removing the mushrooms) and the other tasted it then politely declined. We went on to have a wonderful evening together, in no small part because I didn’t glower over my kids’ uneaten food.
Every meal last week was cooked on a sheet pan. BBQ meatballs with roasted potatoes and asparagus (my recipe), bratwurst broiled on the rack over a bed of shredded cabbage, apples and scallions (a Sheet Pan Suppers recipe), coconut-crusted tofu (my recipe) and panko-crusted Chicken Parmesan (a Sheet Pan Suppers recipe).
The recipes were easy, delicious, and beautiful. My kids tried everything, ate much of it, and enjoyed the presentation. I’m thinking some of their lack of enthusiasm for dinner might be from boredom with the same, old, meals I’ve been cooking for years.
More importantly, I haven’t had this much fun in the kitchen in a while.
For me, the pleasure of a cookbook is only partially in the recipes. They have to be good, but for a cookbook to capture my heart I need to feel an affinity with the author. (It’s why I love The Six O’Clock Scramble, Nom Nom Paleo, and all of Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks so much.)
Well, Molly Gilbert had me at the intro. Her writing style is snappy and charming and the recipe descriptions are both useful and fun to read. Some tell little stories about the recipes, and I’m a sucker for a good food story.
The bottom line
The recipes in Sheet Pan Suppers are easy, accessible, relatively quick, and delicious. Presentation is beautiful. Cleanup is effortless. I simplify my meal planning by cooking from a single cookbook all week, and I expect Sheet Pan Suppers will have a fixed spot on my counter for a while.
Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight From The Oven
by Molly Gilbert (Workman, 2015)
I wasn’t asked nor was I paid to write this review. I just haven’t been this excited about a cookbook in years, and I wanted to share it with you.